Question: Which TV show proposals were initially rejected by the networks and then went on to become hits?
- Desparate Housewives
- American Idol
Answer: All of the above. According to this piece on Marketplace none of these four programs were recognized for being the huge hits they went on to become, each almost single-handedly revitalizing their respective networks. It took the intervention of top-level executives with good spidey-sense to see the promise and get them on the air. The top-level executive is not always at the top - CBS president Leslie Moonves thought Survivor was the stupidest show he'd ever heard of. At first. A lower-level exec kept pressing him and he gradually came around. We all know what the end result was. A well-known past example of this phenomenon is All in the Family, which was rejected by all the networks before one exec took a chance on it, and it went on to become a classic and a watershed addressing difficult social issues in the US at a turbulent time.
There's still no substitute for intuition informed by experience.